Yes, 2020 was a year of momentous change, turbulence and uncertainty. A time when emotions spanned the gamut. And when most employees and employers were forced to adapt to unfamiliar working situations.

In fact, almost 70 percent of American workers say the pandemic has been the most stressful time of their career. And 75 percent report that they have been negatively impacted by ongoing stress, insecurity about the future… as well as the need to constantly adapt.

If you only choose to focus on just one primary goal, we’d suggest it’s more important than ever for Building Product brand leaders to nurture and apply soft skills — also known as “people skills” — by demonstrating empathy, compassion and kindness… when leading and communicating.

Application of soft skills is especially crucial to help ensure that sales and marketing teams are aligned. After all, both sales and marketing share the same essential goal: to grow the company. They both want more customers. Increased brand awareness. And higher profits. While their approach to reaching these goals may vary… ultimately everyone will be better working together, heading in the same direction.

The Softer Side

Soft skills — which include abilities such as listening, collaboration, persuasion, team building and conflict resolution — enable leaders to nurture and strengthen relationships with associates. Bringing out the very best in their teams. Taking a step back and listening to each other — rather than feeling the need to assert a position — can go a long way in creating harmony. Helping to “get things done”. And generating positive forward momentum.

Here are four soft skills tips that Building Product brand leaders can apply to be more successful and increase sales and marketing alignment.

Learn to Listen… and Respond With Respect.

Active listening starts with ensuring whomever you are in conversation with knows you are paying attention. When sales and marketing are communicating, all team members should keep an open mind. And avoid being judgmental. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything the person on the other end of the conversation says. It simply means that you are willing to “hear” them. And respect their opinion.

Rather than claiming that, “the leads we’re receiving aren’t high quality and aren’t resulting in conversions,” Sales can say to Marketing instead, “Can we work together to come up with some ideas to generate more targeted leads?” And instead of retorting, “Sales doesn’t follow up on the leads we provide,” Marketing associates could inquire, “What tools can we provide you… to make it easier to qualify these leads?”

Don’t Get Lost in Translation.

 Every orchestra needs a skilled conductor, and — in business — remarkable leaders learn to become expert communicators. They know how to speak to audiences in their own language. And in a way that is familiar and that will resonate. In general, Marketers are analytical, data-oriented and project focused… and are looking to build a broad, competitive brand advantage to leverage for the future. Whereas salespeople typically invest their time talking directly to existing and potential customers. They’re recognized for their skills at building one-on-one relationships. Keeping things moving. And closing.

Educate both Sales and Marketing on what the other team is doing and why… making sure to present it in a way that explains the mutual benefits their efforts produce. And how each contributes to the good of the organization, as a whole. When possible, consider having each Marketing team member sit next to a Salesperson. This enables Marketers to experience firsthand if the Marketing initiatives they are working on are helping to generate Sales. In turn, Salespeople can ask Marketing team members questions about the leads they are getting and learn to appreciate the different Marketing programs being implemented.

Maintain Curiosity. 

Curiosity is a soft skill that often gets overlooked. Curious Building Product Marketers don’t simply focus on the task at hand. Rather, they go beyond their comfort zone — regularly studying industry trends and tracking what competitors are doing — to come up with fresh and unique ideas designed to elevate and distinguish their products in the marketplace. They are on the lookout for new ways to improve existing products and processes… or create new ones.

They also regularly talk to the Sales team to get input on what it’s like out in the field. After all, this past year has certainly reinforced that things change… often unexpectedly. Sales ride-alongs are a great experience for brand marketers to learn firsthand what challenges customers and prospects are facing. How sales are responding to those challenges. And the strategies they have developed for overcoming objections. If a ride-along isn’t possible, sitting in on Sales calls and Zoom presentations to dealers and reps could be another effective way to audit Sales in action. Seeing things from a different perspective can help Marketers be more in tune with Sales… and create stronger relationships that will pay lasting mutually-rewarding dividends.

Solve Problems Together. 

Unforeseen factors can offset even the best-laid plans. Consider all the buttoned-up marketing plans that were turned upside down last year when the pandemic became a reality. Few — if any — marketing departments in the Building Products channel had a virus contingency plan that was tested and in place. Marketers had to quickly shift gears to generate new strategies, tactics, and messaging appropriate for the evolving situation. This type of paradigm shift could only be achieved by applying well-honed problem-solving skills that could be prior battle-tested, in team alignment scenarios.

To ensure optimal buy-in for your plans, make sure to encourage feedback from Sales when developing Marketing solutions. Consider hosting mini Sales “focus groups” to help vet the resonance of the Marketing programs you’re delivering. Will these campaigns positively influence their sales cycles? And — if not – what suggestions can Sales offer for consideration and potential improvement? Holding weekly or bi-weekly Sales and Marketing debriefs can also be helpful for encouraging collaboration and ongoing engagement.

Easy Does It

When applied consistently, soft skills enable Building Product brands to respond more effectively in an ever-changing — and constantly shifting business environment. Soft skills not only foster enhanced internal team performance, but also — lead to improved collaboration, innovation and stronger external customer relationships.

Interested in learning how to optimize soft skills to create improved sales and marketing alignment for your Building Product brand? Check out our Voices of the Industry presentation at KBIS Virtual. And look for more info on our Sales & Marketing Alignment webinar… coming soon!